System: multiple :: Rating: Teen :: Players: 1
Genre: Action :: Released: 07 October 2003 (GameCube), 24 August 2004 (PS2)
By Morphine Jim
I think Sony paid Capcom to fuck Nintendo in the ass. That is what I think. Capcom was supposed to make five exclusive killer titles for the GameCube, games that would re-establish Nintendo as major competitors. It looks likely. Capcom's "Big Five" were and are fantastic, with titles like Resident Evil 4 and the sublimely dark looking Killer 7 causing intrigue and wet pants with their previews. Even I, an adamant hater of the GameCube, was considering buying one again on the strength of what Capcom was offering. For some strange reason, however, Capcom has thoroughly taken the wind out of Big N's sails, replacing it with a dismissive fart. Resi 4 and Killer 7 are set to appear on the PlayStation 2 now, a great looking title they had in development died, and chief among them, Viewtiful Joe, one of the GameCube's most badass titles, is now available to buy on the PS2 for a budget price. Was I not going to buy it? Like bloody fun I wasn't!
You play Joe, a movie geek who's girlfriend Sylvia gets kidnapped by a villain from inside a cinema screen after defeating Joe's favourite action hero, Captain Blue. To avenge Blue and rescue Sylvia, Joe must enter Movie Land, never questioning the fact he was just pushed through a fucking cinema screen by a giant robot and, with the help of Captain Blue, embrace his "hero-ness" to defeat an army of evildoers known as The Jadow. That's really the plot in a nutshell. There's nothing heavy or engaging, you're just given enough compulsion to continue playing, with the emphasis on silliness. In traditional beat 'em up style, the story is little more than harmless filler to provide you with some sort of reason to stick with the action.
And what action. Viewtiful Joe is a true hardcore, old school style of game. Think something along the lines of Double Dragon or Streets Of Rage, only pumped more full of steroids than Scott Steiner and a terminally ill racehorse combined. It's a classic side scrolling game like mother used to make. Well, "Make you stop playing to get some so-called fresh air." The majority of the game is simple and traditional — you move from left to right, beating wave after wave of on-screen enemies before being allowed to move on. After such mindless violence, you work your way to a boss, kick his arse, then move on. In structural terms, it's a perfect example of serious arcade goodness, and is simplicity personified.
The gameplay itself, however, is not as simple as one would be led to believe. For one thing, this is game is hard. Seriously, it is difficult. I know I'm not a great gamer, but damn can this game be harsh. An addition to the PS2 version of VJ is an easy difficulty setting, which is a good idea, considering I'm playing on normal and on several occasions, it has made me its bitch. On the whole, however, this is a good thing, keeping you coming back for more pummeling, in the hopes of gaining vengeance on that particularly nasty boss, or clearing the section that's giving you trouble. It really does take me back to my Sega days.
As fun as this whimsical nostalgia is, however, it isn't enough in this modern world to make a great game. Even an old school game needs something fresh to make it stand out, and Viewtiful gives us that with the VFX Powers. Based on the kind of actions you'd find on a DVD recorder, these superpowers that Joe learns in the beginning portions of the game provide the all important depth to this title. The three powers are Slow, Mach Speed and Zoom — all three of which are easy to use and pretty self explanatory. Slow, naturally, slows down time, allowing you to avoid attacks more easily, see and deflect bullets, and do more damage. Mach Speed does the opposite, speeding time up and allowing you to attack with super speed combos that'll eventually set enemies on fire. Again, Zoom does exactly what it says on the tin. With a push of the right analog stick, the camera zooms in on Joe, who'll strike a heroic pose and do a lot more damage to his enemies, as well as intimidate weaker foes. These VFX powers can be combined to create devastating attacks and are also an integral part of gameplay. Some of the more puzzley elements to the game make ingenious use of your abilities, such as slowing down time so that a helicopter's rotor blades stop turning and it falls to the ground. Using these powers drains your VFX meter however, and if you drain it completely, you turn into regular ol' Joe again and have to fight like an emasculated 'tard until you get enough VFX meter replenished to turn back into your hero form.
Performing combos and using your skills in battle gain you "Viewtifuls" which are points that can be spent on upgrading Joe between levels. While nothing ball breakingly spectacular, purchasing new attacks and boosts to your powers just add another minor element of depth. Besides which, nobody's going to refuse to buy life boosts, unless of course you're one of those insane Japanese "AAAH ME DEFEATY GAME IN UNDER THREE MINUTO WHILE ONLY USEY NO POWAH TO FIGHT" types.
Graphically, there's not much that can be said that hasn't been said 100 times. This game looks as "Viewtiful" as its name would suggest. I thought I'd be so tired of cell shading, but it seems there's just so much style that can be applied to the technique that it hasn't gotten old to me yet. Viewtiful Joe's dripping in so much style you'd think it was MC Hammer covered in Mr. T's cum. With bold outlines and a bright-yet-gritty finish, a genuine comic book look has been given to the entire title, and looks more convincing than even film-noir FPS XIII in doing so. I can't overemphasize just how pretty this thing looks. Ooooobviously this looks better on the GameCube, and the PS2 version suffers from some slight slowdown when the action gets at its heaviest, but that does little to take away from the fact that things look superb.
Soundwise, things are damn solid as well. This is one loud bastard of a game, which adds to the adrenalin pumping nature of the action. The utter chaos of the fighting is enhanced no end by the sounds of explosions, insane robotic squarks of your enemies and some very satisfying punching sound effects. It's over the top and it's cartoony, which is exactly what it should be. I've been disappointed recently with quite a few muted sound effects on games, but there's none of that in Viewtiful. Totally in your face. The voices are in keeping with the rest of the title, being ridiculously over the top. The bosses especially are delightfully stupid, if you can manage to hear a word they say under the obscuring vocal effects they put on.
— Pure, classic arcade action.
— Very smart use of the VFX powers.
— Damn challenging.
— One of the most stylish lookers you'll find.
— Neat PS2-exclusive unlockable character.
— Pretty short.
— Sometimes relies on unforgiving trial and error.
And The Veauty
I really couldn't find any big negatives to this game. Being damn difficult in places could be construed as a negative, but it seems that this generation of consoles wants to breed a species of pussies. Sure, the difficulty can be a pain in the ass when you're desperately losing life trying to figure out how to dispose of a new enemy or work out a puzzle, but once you get over the frustrations, you pick your beaten ass up from the floor, dust yourself down and try again. I find myself using that tired old term again, but it truly is an "old school" mentality that serves as the drive for this title. The other negative is the length, but once again, when you factor in the difficulty of this game, it doesn't become that big of a negative. The replayability comes from the fact that you will die. And like any arcadey game, it's addictive as all hell anyway and should keep you coming back even after completion, especially when considering the extra difficulty levels you can unlock like a sick masochist.
Then we come to the biggest jewel in the PS2 release's crown, Dante. Completing the game allows you to unlock the main character from one of Capcom's biggest franchises, the son of Sparda himself. Add to that the fact that it's released brand new at half price (doubtless due to Viewtiful Joe 2's imminent release) and there you have it. A game no PS2 owner should be without; this title truly is Viewtiful. Har har.
"Henshin a go-go, baby" — Viewtiful Joe